“A man who fears being seen as feminine is a man who fears being treated the way he treats women”
“Toxic masculinity,” as it is in the title, directly translates to “toxic manliness.” It means the “adherence to traditional male gender roles that consequently stigmatize and limit the emotions boys and men may comfortably express while elevating other emotions such as anger” (Wikipedia). Male readers, have you ever had instances when you were told by your parents, “Don’t cry, you’re a boy,” or your friends tell you, “You like ___ ? That’s so girly,” and/or “You run like a girl”? Female readers, have you ever been told “women are too emotional” and “women should honor men,” while having your gender used against you?
I’ve always wondered why it was considered “feminine” if a guy wears makeup, loves fashion, cries about something, so on and so forth. Nobody ever said certain things are only for girls or boys, and yet people like to point out when guys are acting “like a girl.”
I remembered talking to my childhood friend a while ago, who inspired me to write this post. We somehow got to the topic of the old culture that Japan had: women stay at home to nurture children, while men went to work to support their families. He was the type of guy who still had that outdated mindset: women support men without overshadowing them.
He told me, “I would want my girlfriend or wife to walk 3 steps behind me,” saying that he doesn’t like the idea of being led by women because leading is something that a man would do. I was in shock to hear “a wife should walk 3 steps behind one’s husband” in the 21 century. I was quite disappointed and speechless to experience such toxic masculinity, especially because I was raised, always being told, “Be a woman who can stand on her two feet without relying on men. Marriage being the life goal for women is outdated. Grow up so you can have a choice without having to need men.”
When I asked him what he thinks of guys who choose to be equal with their significant other. He replied back, “It just shows how weak they are that they have to rely on women to live their life."
This instance made me realize how close-minded and ignorant some people are. It was clear that he didn’t have as many opportunities as I had to interact with individuals from different backgrounds and upbringings. But he was confident that his type of thinking was acceptable and normal. It was scary to see that someone could be ignorant enough to base everything on his mindset. However, I pitied him for being blindfolded and knowing so little about the world.
Then a few years later came my first year of college. I lived in the girls' suite in a coed dorm hall, where I met a close guy friend. I hung out with him often: studying in the library, eating lunch and dinner, watching movies, and so on. Sometimes we hung out with my suitemates, where we studied and hung out together.
But soon after, some of my suitemates began suspecting that he was gay, solely because he talked and laughed “like a girl”. When I asked them what they meant by “he laughs like a girl,” one of them continued to explain that “a guy doesn’t cover his mouth when he laughs, but [insert my guy friend’s name] does.” She used her standard of how a guy should be to discuss his actions in public and go even further to assume someone’s sexuality, which was absolutely none of her business.
When he and I first started hanging out, he clarified that he likes girls. I was curious as to why he thought he should clarify because it didn’t even cross my mind until he told me. He then said that a lot of people in his high school assumed that he was gay because he had a lot of female friends. So I defended him, saying “I don’t know why y’all are assuming. He said he dated a girl before” to which the same girl said “That doesn’t mean anything. He could be bi then.” I was left speechless again by her ignorant behavior. It’s frightening to see people be vocal about such a close-minded perspective and see no one point out the problem. It was sad and hopeless to see no one else notice how inappropriate her behavior was, as they simply nodded in agreement. This instance, along with many other things, is the reason why I don’t talk to the majority of them today.
What does being “a man” or “a woman” mean to you? If your definition of either phrase describes how a man or woman “should” be or what they “should” be doing based on some kind of a standard, then it’s very likely that you’re part of the problem. The way your guy friend laughs or talks shouldn’t bother you. The way your female friend is ambitious and vocal shouldn’t bother you. Be present and active for your friends who are in the minority. Initiate conversations so people can learn more to reflect on their perspective.
Graphic by Ayumi White